An attempt to smuggle the fragmented remains of two ancient mummies was foiled by Egyptian customs personnel, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities in a Facebook post.
An unnamed Belgium-bound passenger had stuffed the mummies’ six parts – including “two feet, two legs, the lower part of a left hand, one arm, and a part of the torso" – into a speaker that was then packed into their luggage, said Hamdi Hamam, head of the Central Administration of Archaeological Units at Egyptian Ports. Authorities were tipped off after X-ray scans of the luggage at Cairo International Airport showed the uncanny resemblance of hidden human body parts. Security officials called in expert mummy sleuths, who examined the find and confirmed its authenticity. Evidence of embalming fluid and resin was also recorded on the limbs.
The fragmented mummy parts were confiscated under Egyptian Law on the Protection of Antiquities, which claims that all antiquities are considered to be the property of the state, prohibiting the possession or trade of such items. Under this law, “every person who unlawfully smuggles an antiquity… shall be liable to a prison term with hard labor and a fine of not less than 5,000 and not more than $50,000 [Egyptian] pounds.”
It is unclear where the mummies came from or the circumstances under which they were obtained. The remains were expedited to the Egyptian Museum for restoration.
Lara Croft and Indiana Jones aside, tomb robbing is not a new trend and was first acknowledged as a problem as long as 5,000 years ago during the Early Dynastic period. Noble and wealthy members of society were often buried with treasures to accompany them into the afterlife, from clothing and jewelry to ancient artwork and weaponry – all of which can fetch a hefty price tag on black markets.
Indeed, some of the world’s most notable ancient Egyptian artifacts have made their way to famous museums under less-than-honest circumstances. A pair of 3,200-year-old art tableaus currently housed at the Louvre is at the center of a contentious debate after the Egyptian government says they were stolen from a tomb in the Valley of the Kings more than three decades ago. And the list goes on. The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities claims that the bust of Nefertiti, which has resided in Berlin’s Egyptian Museum since 1923, was sold to the museum under false pretenses and rightfully belongs in its home country.
[H/T: Live Science]